Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro Inc.

Here to serve

Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro Inc. is a local distribution company that supplies electricity to 84,000 homes and businesses within the City of Kitchener and the Township of Wilmot, Ontario. As wholly owned subsidiary of Kitchener Power Corporation, Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro Inc. is focused on providing a safe and reliable supply of electricity to its customers.

Aside from the supply side of the business, Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro Inc. is also a participating member of the Electricity Distributors Association (EDA), providing constituents with advocacy and representation in legislative and regulatory environment and the electricity market in Ontario.

Leading green

All across Canada, utilities and consumers are being called to find ways to conserve energy; it’s the number-one topic these days in the energy sector. Ontario is no different. In 2009, Premier Dalton McGuinty and Energy Minister George Smitherman unveiled a plan to infuse the province with green energy. The piece of legislation was called the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA), and it was created to enable local distribution companies to get involved in renewable energy generation. As a two-pronged approach, the GEA plans to bring more renewables to the province, as well as create more efficiency measures to help conserve energy.

While the GEA is a much-needed solution for communities throughout the province, Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro was already ahead of the game. With established partnerships focused on conservation and demand management, the utility was well on its way in transforming the way energy is used in its region. 

The company’s first phase of conservation and demand management ran from 2004 to 2007, focusing on infrastructure improvements, including an $800,000 program that involved the installation of 77 distribution line capacitors to improve the efficiency of its grid and distribution system. Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro also developed customer-focused conservation programs to help save energy, such as a fuel-switching program that encouraged customers to switch from electric water heaters and furnaces to natural gas. The company also worked with a local low-income group to install energy-efficient refrigerators in low-income housing areas.

Since 2007, Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro has stayed the course, working with the Ontario Power Authority to deliver conservation programs across the province.

Empowering transformers

Along with the company’s investment into green energy, Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro continues to put a lot of its resources into projects that improve the overall efficiency of its distribution system. This manifests itself in significant investments in transformer stations. This is another way in which Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro has set itself apart in the province; it is one of only a few distribution companies that constructs, owns, and operates its own transformer stations (which take high voltage power at 115,000 or 230,000 volts and reduce it to distribution voltage at 13,800 or 27,600 volts). Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro not only employs engineers and technicians to do station design, it also has its own construction forces to build the stations.

With seven transformer stations already under its management, the company is building its eighth, and is investing more than $13 million in the project. The new transformer station development—due for completion this year—comes in response to regional growth and to improve system efficiencies.

The eighth station will be larger than the one it is replacing and will be capable of accommodating growth for the next 20 years. Furthermore, the new transformer station will be able to distribute power at 27,600 volts in a rural area, rather than 8,320 volts, which is what the company is presently limited to.

Consistent upgrades

Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro is keenly aware that wherever it can make its process more efficient, the customers will ultimately save money—this includes time saved by avoiding power losses. That’s why the company is dedicated to frequent upgrades.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, for example, Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro worked on a voltage conversion program in the urban area of Kitchener. In that time, the company spent $18 million on eliminating 26.4 kV substations and replaced more than 4,000 distribution transformers and poles, 70 miles of underground cables, and reinsulated 165 miles of overhead pole lines to distribute at a higher voltage. The objective was to eliminate intermediate transformers, and thus, lower operating and maintenance costs, while increasing the efficiency of its distribution system.

Today, the region is distributing power from its (soon-to-be eight) high-voltage transformer stations directly to homes and businesses. Those energy savings have been passed on to the customer through lower distribution rates and by reducing the electricity usage adjustment factor on homeowners’ bills.

With more than 10,000 distribution transformers installed, only 230 of those are more than 40 years old, which speaks to the company’s continuous focus on replacing the old with the new. By building a culture of constant improvement, Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro is well positioned to lead the way in incorporating the demands Green Energy and Green Economy Act will impose on distributors.